History of the Waldo Lake Area

Native Americans inhabited the area thousands of years before white settlers arrived. Upland game, such as deer and elk, and edible plants, especially huckleberries, provided abundant food resources for the semi-nomadic bands. Various locales in the Waldo Lake area were utilized as temporary camps and food gathering sites.

In historical times, it is thought that Waldo Lake was discovered by Charlie Tufti, a Molalla Indian. Its early name was "Pengra Lake," named for B.J. Pengra, a pioneer railroad enthusiast. Waldo Lake was later renamed for Judge John Breckenridge Waldo. Judge Waldo, William Gladstone Steel and other conservationists were instrumental in the creation of the Cascade Range Forest Reserve, established by President Grover Cleveland on September 28, 1893.

Early settlers in the late 1800s and early 1900s found the Waldo area well suited for grazing sheep. One of the sheep driveways built later became the Irish-Taylor Road which now branches to Taylor Burn Guard Station and North Waldo. The road began as a stock trail for sheepherders who drove their bands to the high country for the summer and set fires as they left in the fall to open up more grazing on the plateau north of Waldo Lake.

Waldo Lake was also a popular area for trapping fur-bearing animals. The south end of the lake was often used for winter encampments by trappers from the LaPine and Oakridge areas.

Recreation use of the Waldo Area dates back to the late 1800s with the establishment of five access trails from Oakridge. By 1923, the Forest Service topographic map reveals access trails to Waldo Lake from the Skyline, Salmon Creek, Salt Creek, and Gold Lake trails. Horses and mules were the main modes of transportation. The Forest Service maintained a guard station at Waldo Meadows, and fire lookouts on Waldo, Fuji, the Twins, and Maiden Peak.


Of historical and cultural interest is the existing Klovdahl Dam headgate and tunnel structure. Built in approximately 1914, the structure was built to provide power and irrigation. However, it was never used and has had to be repaired for leaks four times. If the tunnel were to open, it could lower the level of Waldo Lake over 25 feet.

In 1939, the original North Waldo and Taylor Burn Forest Camps (campgrounds) were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Construction costs primarily covered materials and totaled $1,702.45 for North Waldo and $2,804.00 for Taylor Burn.

In the early 1960s, the Eugene Chamber of Commerce and the Forest Service were interested in stimulating recreation opportunities in Lane County. Waldo Lake was visualized by some as a "Lake Tahoe" of Oregon. A Waldo Lake area plan was developed that included the present facilities plus future developments including a marina/lodge and possible ski area at the south end of the lake. A paved road connecting North Waldo to Century Drive was also planned. The road right-of-way was constructed but never paved.

Construction of the 12 mile Waldo access road from Highway 58 began in 1964, and the last of three campgrounds was completed in 1971. Oregon and California county timber funds were used to cover the two million dollar project costs.

Three campgrounds ~ North Waldo, Islet, and Shadow Bay ~ have over 200 developed sites with toilets, potable water and boat ramps at Waldo Lake. An additional 50 or so dispersed sites are scattered around the lake. Most of these have been used since the 1950s; some are heavily used. Unlike the developed campground sites which are set back from the lake, most of the dispersed sites are close to the lakeshore and have only a primitive fire ring. Access to these sites is via the Waldo Lake trail or by water.